This course is for anyone interested in elections. Participants will receive practical advice on setting an ethical tone, ethical decision-making, ethical operations, and using campaign ethics to their advantage. Please note that this is a course on ethics and not a primer on the specific laws that regulate the political process. Upon completion, participants will receive a badge from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics that can be used on campaign websites and other campaign communications.
Public service is a noble calling. The process of getting there, however, is not always so noble. Our process for electing public officials is born out of the ethical ideal of creating an informed electorate. Regrettably, secret obligations in exchange for endorsements, scripted debates, the influence of big money, and irrelevant, deceptive, and vitriolic campaign communications leave the voter without any real information about what a candidate stands for or to whom the candidate is beholden. Voters feel disenfranchised, believing that their vote no longer matters. Citizens are also frustrated by political polarity and resultant lack of legislative productivity. The public perceives that negotiation and compromise are no longer available tools for those who govern due to obligations created during the campaign process. Moreover, unethical political attacks freely dispensed during a campaign poison later legislative relationships.
Statistics for voter turnout and public trust in government are at historical lows. At the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics we believe that one of the reasons for this civic disengagement is that our political process turns a blind eye toward unethical campaign practices. We believe that encouraging ethical campaigns will decrease political polarity by reducing the rancor in political races, will restore public trust in government by ensuring fairness and integrity in campaigns, and will increase civic engagement by creating a process that not only encourages an informed and involved electorate, but encourages good people to run for office.